Brian Chilson

Today, the public will get a first chance to see the Robinson Center after the largest architectural update to the building in its history, a $70 million renovation approved by voters in 2013 using a portion of the state’s 2 percent hospitality tax. Gretchen Hall, the CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, and David Porter of the Polk Stanley Wilcox architect firm, gave members of the press a preview of the interior, just ahead of the ribbon cutting Thursday morning. Here’s a quick tour.

The light fixtures adorning the ceilings in the passageways around the performance hall were re-purposed from the performance hall, highlighted by angular wall panels and appealing color palettes.


We didn’t care much for the way the carpet interrupted and obscured those lovely lines, although we were assured that the choice to incorporate geometric squares into the flooring was inspired by a similar art deco pattern on the building’s brick exterior.

Upstairs, the Grand Ballroom, named after composer William Grant Still, opens out onto a terrace overlooking the Arkansas River.


In the patron’s lounge, the 1939 Southern yellow pine flooring was re-purposed for the floor and for one wall.

The cavernous performance hall, engineered by JaffeHolden Acoustics, holds around 2214 people, with four seats in each of 14 boxes (eight on the upper tier, six on the grand tier). A woven metal fabric called “cascade coil” hangs from the ceilings.


On the stage, a bowed ten-foot acoustic shell is being prepared for liftoff, where it will be used as a tool for heightening acoustics for non-amplified performances. “Any time the symphony is performing, they’ll use that to basically circle and hug the symphony,” Hall said.

With the exception of tickets for upcoming performances from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the box office will continue to be operated by Celebrity Attractions, and the production company announced in September that it would bring “The Lion King” to Robinson Center, a production that would not have been possible to stage in the former facility.

A panel discussion titled “The Robinson Center: Honoring the Past — Anticipating the Future” takes place tonight in the new facility, 6 p.m., featuring insight on the project from Hall and Porter, as well as Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, Ennead Architects’ Kevin McClurkan, and moderated by Clinton School of Public Service’s Dean Skip Rutherford. Seats may be reserved by 501-683-5239, or by emailing If you can’t make it, but wish to tune in, the event will be streamed live.